Humza Yousaf has refused to refer himself to his outside ethics advisers after being accused of misleading parliament over a false claim about Scotland’s energy resources.

The First Minister said he didn’t think it would be a “good use of their time”, adding: “I therefore consider this matter to be closed”.

The refusal was in spite of compelling evidence that Mr Yousaf’s officials only came up with figures to justify his false claim several days after he made it to parliament.

The First Minister nevertheless said it had always been his “intention” to use them.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton, who had called for an ethics probe, accused Mr Yousaf of “secrecy and statistical gymnastics”.

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Under the Scottish Ministerial Code, Mr Yousaf judges if any ministers have broken the rules, but only he can refer himself for an outside investigation.

The First Minister wrongly told FMQs in June that Scotland had the majority of the UK’s renewables and natural resources, when in fact it has around a quarter of capacity.

After being challenged by Tory MSP Liam Kerr at the time about his accuracy, Mr Yousaf replied two months later in a letter saying he had “intended to say ‘per capita’ resources”.

However material released under freedom of information suggested Mr Yousaf couldn’t have known the per capita figure at the time, as his officials hadn’t produced one.

The calculation was only made in July, when civil servants were trying to find a formula that would retrospectively justify Mr Yousaf’s original statement. 

Internal Scottish Government correspondence released to the pro-Union These Islands group showed officials asked someone to “dig out” the relevant figures within 30 minutes of Mr Yousaf’s making his original claim at FMQs.

Later that afternoon, officials confirmed Scotland had 26% of UK renewable capacity and 26% of generation in 2022, not the majority Mr Yousaf had claimed.

But rather than admit it, the hunt for new numbers went on, and officials added in future renewable projects under construction and in planning, raising the Scotland figure to 36%.

It was not until July 3 that an official circulated a table including per capita figures, which gave Scotland 651.6GWh per 100,000 people, by far the highest for any part of the UK.

Mr Yousaf then wrote to Mr Kerr on August 29 offering this after-the-fact explanation.

He said: “To be clear, in a UK context, we do have the majority of renewables per capita and natural resources, here in Scotland. I had intended to say ‘per capita’.” 

That prompted Mr Cole-Hamilton to write to Mr Yousaf urging him to refer himself for a ministerial code investigation. 

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He said it seemed “impossible” for Mr Yousaf to have intended to say per capita, given the calculation was only made afterwards for a “reverse engineered” excuse.

Knowingly misleading parliament is considered a resignation offence at Holyrood

Mr Yousaf replied to Mr Cole-Hamilton in mid-October, a letter that was not released at the time as the First Minister’s family was trapped in Gaza. 

In it, Mr Yousaf said he had taken advice from the Scottish Government’s most senior official, the Permanent Secretary John-Paul Marks, but did not reveal what he said.

Mr Yousaf personally concluded there was “no substance” to Mr Cole-Hamilton’s claims “and I do not intend to refer myself to my independent advisers”.

He went on: “My intention at First Minister’s Questions on 22 June was to say ‘per capita’ in relation to Scotland’s share of the UK’s renewables and natural resources. 

“That is borne out by my request to have the Parliamentary record corrected. 

“The Office of the Chief Economic Adviser has confirmed that the per capita figure is a fact: it is not something that could be fabricated by officials either retrospectively or otherwise. 

“As such, there is no evidence to support the claim that I may have misled Parliament and consequently been in breach of the Scottish Ministerial Code. 

“I believe that matters should only be referred to my independent advisers when there are sufficient grounds for a meaningful investigation, when their conclusions could usefully inform my deliberations. I do not think that asking them to review your complaint would be a good use of their time, nor do I believe it would reveal any meaningful new insights.”

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Releasing the letter today, Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “It’s extremely disappointing that Humza Yousaf has blocked a proper investigation into this matter.

"His original claim to Parliament was simply false. 

“His revision - calculating Scotland's energy potential on a ‘per capita’ basis - is an exercise in secrecy and statistical gymnastics. It’s designed to confuse and deflect.” 

He went on: “The Scottish Government treated questions with a real lack of transparency, breaching freedom of information laws by refusing to release key details about how this dodgy statistic was dreamt up.

“People deserve ministers who care about accountability and transparency, but that doesn’t seem to be on offer from the SNP.”